David Byrd

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While the vast majority of the classic rock poster art of the psychedelic era emerged from the San Francisco area, the March 1968 opening of promoter Bill Graham's New York City venue the Fillmore East…
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While the vast majority of the classic rock poster art of the psychedelic era emerged from the San Francisco area, the March 1968 opening of promoter Bill Graham's New York City venue the Fillmore East occasioned the arrival of new creative talent from the other side of the country; foremost among them was David Byrd, whose powerful linework as well as his strong sense of dimension and balance brought a distinctively East Coast sensibility to the form. A native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, born April 4, 1941, Byrd was raised in Miami Beach and later received his M.F.A. in painting and printmaking from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He then relocated to upstate New York, living on a farm as a member of the artist collective and innovative media design group Fantasy Unlimited.

Upon hearing that the Fillmore East was in need of an artist to design posters and programs, in early 1968 Byrd presented his portfolio to Graham, who hired him on the spot; far removed from the San Francisco music scene, he had no artistic reference point to work from, and so his first poster -- advertising an upcoming appearance by Traffic -- instead offered his own unique interpretation of the West Coast style. Byrd produced a number of pieces for the Fillmore East between 1968 and 1971, most notably the poster trumpeting the Who's first U.S. performance of their rock opera Tommy; however, by the early '70s it was increasingly apparent that the demands of the New York music scene made radio and print advertising much more cost-effective, and the Fillmore East posters were phased out.

Byrd -- whose most famous image arguably remains his commemorative poster celebrating the Woodstock festival -- reconnected with the Tommy project in 1973, when he was among a number of prominent illustrators tapped to design the album's cover; their cumulative efforts won a Grammy Award. Between the mid-'70s and 1990, he also produced countless book and magazine covers, later expanding into posters for theatrical productions and feature films. Byrd's success ultimately brought him to Hollywood, where he was named Senior Illustrator at Warner Bros. Creative Services.